For those of you who follow me on twitter, you may already know that I finally graduated from my undergraduate degree last week! And yes, call me crazy, but I am still going to be at uni for another 2 years doing my Masters degree – but that’s a story for another time.
Anyway, instead of buying flowers or other graduation merchandise, I decided to make some cookies to share with my fellow graduands. These were basic sugar cookies using the same recipe as I used for the Placecard Cookies I made last year, cut out into stars and trencher caps, and decorated with royal icing.
The hardest part of making these for me was figuring out how to pipe the icing on properly and getting the black icing as black as possible! I didn’t actually have black food colouring with me so I used a combination of cocoa powder and blue liquid food colouring to get the deep black colour. It also gives the icing a bit of a chocolatey taste as well, which isn’t neceesarily a bad thing :)
And for those of you wondering how I cut my cookies out in the shape of the trencher cap, check out my home-made cookie cutter above. I had a little too much time on my hands and decided to make the cookie cutter myself out of some cardboard and foil and it worked surprisingly well! It was a little battered and worse for wear after cutting out a whole batch of cookies but you can always make the cookie cutter out of sturdier materials if you want it to be more long lasting.
Me with mah cookie on graduation day!
P.S. Congrats to everyone who graduated with me and I’m sorry if you missed out on a cookie! I lost track of who I had given them out to by the end haha
(Note: To make your own cookie cutters, cut a long, thin piece of cardboard or metal sheeting about 3cm wide. For longer lasting cutters, I recommend using the metal sheeting but for single use, cardboard is fine. Bend and shape the cardboard/metal into your desired shape, and staple or glue the ends together. If you are using cardboard, wrap some foil around the cutter to prevent the fats from the cookie dough from seeping into the cardboard. See these tutorials for more information about making cookie cutters.)
Basic Sugar Cookies
180g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups icing sugar
1. Cream butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy and pale in colour. Add egg yolk and beat well. Add whole egg and vanilla extract and beat until well-combined. Add flour all at once and beat on low speed until just combined – do not overmix. Divide dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or up to 2 days.
2. Preheat oven to 190ºC. Line cookie sheets with parchment. On a floured work surface, and using a floured rolling pin, roll out the dough until about 5mm thick. Cut out shapes using a cookie cutter and place on lined cookie sheets. Bake for about 10 minutes until dry on the surface and light golden brown on the edges. Remove cookies to a cooling rack and leave to cool before icing.
3. For royal icing, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. The icing is now ready to use.
4. To pipe the outlines of the trencher caps, place a small amount of the royal icing into a piping bag with a small round tip and pipe the outlines of the hat (but not the tassel). Leave to dry before decorating further. If you do not have any icing left in your piping bag, put a little more in and save it to pipe the tassels on the trencher caps later. Seal the piping bag at both ends with clingwrap to prevent the royal icing from drying out.
5. If you are making both stars and trencher caps, divide the remaining icing in half. Colour half of the icing yellow for the stars, and the other half black by adding cocoa powder and blue food colouring bit by bit until the desired colour is achieved.
6. To decorate the trencher caps, mix the black icing with a few drops of water at a time to make a runnier icing to flood the cookies. You want the consistency of the icing to be liquid and runny enough so that it smoothes back out in 10 seconds when a spoon is lifted from the icing. When this consistency is achieved, place the icing into another piping bag fitted with a larger round tip and fill in the outlines of the trencher cap cookies with the black icing. Leave to dry for at least one hour.
7. To decorate the stars, mix the yellow icing with a few drops of water at a time to make a runny icing – runny enough so that a blob of icing smoothes back in about 7 seconds. When this consistency is achieved, take a palette knife and apply the icing to the centre of the star. Spread the icing to the edges of the cookie and remove any excess by running the edge of your palette knife around the edge of the cookie. The surface of the glaze should be smooth – if it has a “matte” look then you need to add more water to your icing. Leave the icing to dry preferably overnight.
8. To add the finishing touches to the trencher caps, take the piping bag filled with the stiff, white royal icing and pipe a circle in the centre of the cap, with a tassel stemming from the circle. Leave the decoration to dry overnight. Store cookies in an airtight container.